Prosecution fails to turn up in money laundering case involving restauranteurs

The prosecution into the money laundering case against restauranteurs Florinda Sultana and Albert Buttigieg fails to show up in court 

Albert Buttigieg (left) and Florinda Sultana
Albert Buttigieg (left) and Florinda Sultana

The money laundering case against restauranteurs Florinda Sultana and Albert Buttigieg had to be postponed on Monday after the prosecution failed to turn up in court. 

The court sitting in front of Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech was due to start just before noon but after 30 minutes no one from the prosecution benches showed up.

Sultana and Buttigieg were in court along with their lawyer Stefano Filletti.

The magistrate “deplored” the shortcomings from the prosecution’s end, insisting an explanation be given within 24 hours and to why it failed to show up. “Not even police officials showed up,” she remarked. 

Sultana and Buttigieg are charged with involvement in a number of companies operating the restaurants, Porticello – formerly Scoglitti – in Valletta, and Capo Mulini in Marsaxlokk.

Both restaurants are alleged to be linked to the laundering of money from oil smuggling.

The pair had been the subject of search and arrest warrants last year during a large-scale police anti-smuggling operation which previously led to the arraignments of ex-footballers Darren Debono and Jeffrey Chetcuti, and their auditor Chris Baldacchino. Fuel trader and Debono’s business partner Gordon Debono was also charged.

During previous sittings, the magistrate heard how Sultana and her holding company were not allowed to open bank accounts by local banks, with the restaurant operating on a cash-only basis. 

“There is no bank account for the company in Malta… None of the banks want to allow them to have an account with them as they are subject to FIAU investigations and [the banks] don’t want problems,” the court-appointed administrator had testified, asking the court for guidance on how to handle the situation.

Both accused are denying the charges.